For the 2019/20 ABB FIA Formula E season James Calado joins the Panasonic Jaguar Racing team. Over the course of the season, James will be writing an exclusive monthly blog for The Checkered Flag, giving a unique insight on and off of the track.
As this is my first blog post for The Checkered Flag, I would like to take a moment to introduce myself! So here goes…
I’m James Calado, professional British racing driver, father and Le Mans, winner. I began racing when I was 10 years old and like many others, I began in karts racing in National, European and Global championships with Tony Kart throughout my teenage years. Since moving out of karts, I haven’t stopped racing! Participating in a variety of different series, including Formula Renault, GP3 and GP2 as well as the World Endurance Championship. This year, I’m proud to be a member of the Panasonic Jaguar Racing Formula E team and will be racing in Season 6 of ABB FIA Formula E Championship. Having the opportunity to be part of Formula E with Jaguar is a real honour, it was a sought-after seat and I’m extremely proud to have secured it, especially with Jaguar’s iconic motorsport history. While I have never raced an electric car before, this is a new challenge that I’m excited to take on.
I think that covers the intros, so let me tell you more about my time in Formula E so far; the past few months have been pretty hectic to say the least! Since joining the team, I have been fully immersing myself into all things FE. At the beginning of October, we had the team launch event in Gaydon at the brand-new Jaguar Land Rover Design Studio. At the event, we revealed the new Jaguar I-TYPE 4, the racecar I’ll be driving in the upcoming season. The I-TYPE 4 is the most sophisticated and advanced Jaguar Racing car ever built, featuring an all-new motor, gearbox, inverter, rear suspension and dampers. To put that in perspective there are over 900 new parts in the car from the last race in New York in July.
Reducing the weight has also meant the centre of gravity is a lot more in our favour and allows for a superior set up, definitely needed on street circuits. One thing I have to mention is the car’s all-new powertrain, which is a major feat for the engineering team who have worked night and day… and night on this. It’s an impressive car to say the least and after months of hard work, it was great to showcase it. During the launch I took to the stage to introduce myself to the audience (a mixture of sponsors, media and Jaguar Land Rover employees) alongside my new teammate, Mitch Evans and my new boss, Team Director, James Barclay – it all became very real, race suit on, microphoned up, this is when it all began to sink in.
One for the most important aspects of the past few months is the time I’ve been able to spend with engineers, mechanics and other team members to really integrate Jaguar Racing as one unit. Mitch and I have been meeting frequently with all the engineers who are developing the car. Phil Ingram, my race engineer, has been vital in onboarding me to the race team, as well as helping with the car set up and controls, which is quite different from my sportscar. It’s great when you know you’ve got a great group of guys and girls behind you. It was really interesting to hear from the engineers about the technical changes made between Season 5 and 6 – their knowledge and expertise is so impressive, another level from anything else I have ever been part of. Being surrounded by such a knowledgeable group of people has made me feel right at home. The engineers provide an amazing support system and the belief they have in the I-TYPE 4 is really encouraging. I’m itching to get started.
Following the launch, my next big focus was Valencia pre-season testing. I had some invaluable time at Circuit Ricardo Tormo testing the I-TYPE 4 ahead of the first race in Diriyah. I’d driven the I-TYPE 4 a handful of times before, but this was my first opportunity to get plenty of laps in and take part in a race simulation. The skillset needed to competitively drive a Formula E car isn’t too different to a GTE car, the drive out of the corner and the all-weather tyre was very different, but the general idea around positioning the car on the track was as I expected. The circuit wasn’t massively representative of a conventional street circuit but it was a great opportunity for a rookie! I’ve been out of single-seaters for a few years but naturally, it all came back to me, bit like riding a bike – well an electric one. The testing programme was intense and often challenging, the importance of having a strong working relationship with your engineer is vital.
At this stage in the season, it was about getting laps on the board, checking both the hardware and software were performing as anticipated. It’s tricky to gauge yourself against other teams and drivers – everyone has a unique programme that they are working towards. Mitch and I completed 334 laps across the three-days. A personal highlight was setting the fastest sector one time during one of the sessions – it demonstrates that the correlation work we have been doing in both the sim and testing is aligned. While I still have a lot to learn, my time in Valencia has given me the confidence I needed. It’s about getting time in the seat, the one-day format of Formula E leads itself towards a super intense series and on race day it’s all about extracting the most out of the package that you can, as quickly as possible. I’ve got ultimate trust in the team to get both Mitch and I where we need to be when we go green in Saudi.
Being a racing driver isn’t solely about on-track activity and since joining the team, I have been getting involved in a lot of filming and photoshoots. One of the first shoots I did was in my new kit, first day at school kind of vibe! We also did a shoot featuring LEGO and Scalextric, which are now live on Jaguar social media channels (@JaguarRacing)! Video and photo shoots don’t stop there, this season we are going to take fans behind the scenes with the team. We captured our first VLOG in Valencia during testing and there will be lots more to come. Also, in Valencia we had a group shoot with all the British racing drivers that are part of Formula E. While they may be my rivals, it was great to see some familiar faces. Sam Bird, who I was a factory driver with at Ferrari, has been giving me some pointers, he didn’t want to give too much away though. I might just remember that if he returns to WEC! He is keeping his cards close to his chest.
It’s not long now till the season opener in Saudi Arabia, a doubleheader, so an intense couple of days for sure! These last few weeks have been all about preparing myself physically and mentally for the race. I have been out in the States, as well as China, which is good racecraft preparation. The team have been working tirelessly and have put so much effort into making sure we have the best racecar possible for the Diriyah E-Prix. My first Formula E race, it seems a little weird writing that down but I’m feeling excited, no doubt when I am sitting on the grid on Friday for the first race it will be game on. My aim is to do the best I can do for the team and fans. I’m ready to hit the ground running and undeniably I will learn a lot from the first race. So, keep your fingers and toes crossed for me as I head to Saudi and catch up next month in my second blog! Oh, one last thing, if you are on Instagram, follow me (@JamesCalado) if you want to keep an eye on what I am up to, I might just follow a couple of you back! You can also give me a Fanboost on the Formula E website or Twitter – that would be a great early Christmas present!